The Difference Between a Postpartum Doula and a Baby Nurse

Aug 17, 2021

Back in the day, most women who could afford help hired a baby nurse. To be clear, these were not actual R.N.s.. They were women who focused on the care of a baby after mother gave birth. Before that there were wet nurses; those who breastfed the babies of other women.

Today we call the baby nurse newborn care specialists (NCS). According to the International Nanny Association:  “An NCS is generally hired to care for newborns either overnight or around the clock, and works independently with minimal guidance from parents.” This is very different from a postpartum doula. Although there are many postpartum doulas who provide nighttime support.

Typically, at least one parent is present when a postpartum doula is on duty.

During the nighttime there may be more minimal interaction, and there could be interaction every time the baby eats. In the day time, there are occasions where a Mom has to run an errand, or pick up a child at school, and the doula hangs out with the baby. This is not recommended or encouraged within most training organizations. I say that doulas decide what they will and won’t do, and make it clear when signing the contract.  Many doulas have insurance coverage that dictates what kinds of catastrophes or accidents are covered. As a guide, and a supporter, postpartum doulas are not baby sitters.

The postpartum doula focuses on the mother and what she needs to heal, recover and replenish after childbirth.

Postpartum doulas provide non-medical support and are well-versed in normal newborn behavior and appearance.  They are usually hired to be a guide for new mothers and families as they navigate life with a newborn baby. The mothers needs become the doula’s focus.

Sometimes mothers feel very comfortable with their newborn, and breastfeeding is going well. In this case, the postpartum doula may do some laundry, or dishes; maybe even cook a meal. It really depends on each individual circumstance.

If you are considering which training to take, first decide if you want to focus on the mother or the baby. This will help you to choose the right organization or trainer. Start where you feel most drawn to and you can expand from there. When you narrow down your focus to your ideal client, it helps with all aspects of your marketing efforts.

Postpartum doula, baby nurse, or newborn care specialist? What do you want to be called and how will you match your services and your client approach to your title?


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